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Vet Microbiol. 2008 Sep 18;131(1-2):199-204. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2008.03.001. Epub 2008 Mar 13.

Activatable Shiga toxin 2d (Stx2d) in STEC strains isolated from cattle and sheep at slaughter.

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Institute for Food Safety and Hygiene, Vetsuisse Faculty University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 272, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.


Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) harbouring the stx(2d-activatable) gene and expressing the mucus- and elastase-activatable phenotype have been associated with severe outcomes of human disease. However, there is limited data available on the occurrence of such strains in livestock reservoirs. In this study, we analyzed 11 STEC strains isolated from healthy cattle and sheep at slaughter that were originally detected to contain the stx(2c) allele, for the presence of the stx(2d-activatable) genotype. Ten of the eleven strains displayed the stx(2d-activatable) genotype as determine by PstI restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) of 890-bp fragments of their stx genes. However, only in 6 of the 10 strains whose stx genes were sequenced, the presence of stx(2d-activatable) could be confirmed based on the predicted amino acid sequence of their StxA subunits; the remaining four strains contained Stx2c A subunit. Five of the six strains which contained stx(2d-activatable) displayed the activatable phenotype on Vero cells. Genes for adhesins such as the outer membrane protein intimin (eae), which is essential for the intimate attachment and the formation of attaching-and-effacing lesions on intestinal epithelial cells, or the STEC autoagglutinating adhesin (saa), potentially important in eae-negative STEC, were not detected. Moreover, all the strains tested negative for EHEC-hlyA encoding enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) hemolysin. To our knowledge, this is the first study that reports the presence of STEC harbouring stx(2d-activatable) and producing the activatable Stx2d in fecal samples of sheep. Therefore both cattle and sheep are reservoirs of such strains and potential sources of human infections. This is of particular importance, because in contrast to other eae-negative STEC, strains producing Stx2d(activatable) may cause severe diseases such as bloody diarrhoea and haemolytic uremic syndrome in humans.

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